FROM THE ARCHIVE
Tribe wins trust case appeal
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MAY 14, 2001

Setting aside a lower court decision, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that the Confederated Warm Springs Tribes of Oregon were wrongly deprived of money from a sale of timber made over a decade ago.

Although the court recognized the difficulty in determining how much the tribes should be compensated given the age of the case, the court said the Bureau of Indian Affairs violated its trust responsibility.

As a result, a lower court must now consider how much damages to award the tribe for the loss of the timber. The court also has to consider whether the BIA violated other trust duties and award damages accordingly.

The case stems from the sale of timber on the tribes' reservation in 1990. Logging had been halted the year before because the timber harvested exceeded the amount specified in the tribes' 20-year management plan.

But a winter storm damaged some of the timber and both the tribes and the BIA agreed to harvest them. As soon as the sale went through, however, the tribes' immediately protested, raising a number of issues about the integrity of the BIA's actions.

The tribes believed they weren't properly compensated for the amount of timber that was cut. Additionally, since the tribes planned on exporting timber starting in 1992, they asserted the BIA cut down perfectly healthy trees which could have been sold for twice the amount.

In hearing the case, a lower court acknowledged a number of "inconsistencies" in the way the BIA handled the sale. Yet even though the court said the BIA mismanaged the timber, the tribes' were denied compensation.

The appeals court on Friday concluded that decision was wrong. The case now goes back to the Court of Federal Claims for consideration of further issues.

Get the Case:
THE CONFED. TRIBES OF THE WARM SPRINGS RESERV. OF OREGON v. US, No 00-5002 (Fed Cir. May 10, 2001)

Related Stories:
Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation - http://www.warmsprings.com

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